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Separated Parents at Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year... unless you are a parent of a child where co-parenting proves difficult. Christmas can present all sorts of problems for parents who are unable to co-parent effectively. Christmas tends to be about spending time with close loved ones, friends and family and having to share the children during this time will inevitably mean spending less time with them and having to reach difficult compromises between each other.

What can you do to make the process of co-parenting at Christmas easier?

It often helps for separated parents to try and agree the arrangements for the Christmas period well in advance of the holidays. A common arrangement between separated families is for the children to spend Christmas Eve and some of Christmas Day with one parent, with the rest of Christmas Day and Boxing Day spent with the other. This can then alternate on a yearly basis. That arrangement will not work for everyone as it will largely be dependent on location and family traditions, but it is a starting point to build upon. If distance is an issue and it is not possible to share Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day between you, if you are the parent who is not spending Christmas itself with the children, maybe you could consider arranging a ‘fake Christmas’, where you get to do all the traditional festive things you would like to do with your family, just on a different day. Both parents can then enjoy the full festive experience and the children will get to celebrate twice.

How can you make it easier for your children at Christmas?

Conflict can also cause parents to try to outdo each other in terms of the experience itself and regarding buying presents. Although it can be tempting to spoil the children and show them that they can have a better time with you, this can sometimes lead to children feeling torn and may put them under additional stress if they feel they need to hide things from the other parent. The children’s wishes and feelings should be the primary focus when deciding how to manage the festive period and how it will be celebrated.   

Whatever you decide, communication is key. If you are unable to have face to face discussions with the other parent, you could consider asking a family member or friend to facilitate discussions between you or you could attempt mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution. There are also various online Apps you could use to try and figure out an agreement. Both parents will need to keep an open mind when discussing arrangements for the children and you should both be prepared to compromise to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of the children.

What can you do if you can’t reach an agreement?

Hopefully you are able to agree arrangements at Christmas by yourselves. However, for anyone who is not able to reach agreement or finds this year difficult to manage and wishes to ensure the same pattern is not repeated over years to come, one of our specialist family lawyers in our Family Team will be able to advise and assist you. We also have resolution accredited family lawyers in our team who can offer family mediation.

To find out more or to discuss your individual circumstances in more detail, contact us today on 0800 84 94 101  or email

Appointments are available in person at one of our offices, by telephone or via Zoom if preferred.